Frequently asked questions

1. What evidence base was used to inform the model?

The development of the School Success Model considered a range of primary and secondary research into best-practice educational governance, strategies to drive system-wide improvement to student outcomes, and effective methods of school reform design and evaluation.

This summary outlines the three main research questions considered during the policy development of the School Success Model. Additional primary evidence included the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation’s Local Schools, Local Decisions (LSLD) evaluation interim report, final report, and the NSW Auditor General’s performance audit, Local Schools, Local Decisions: needs-based equity funding.

2. How can strengthened accountability drive system improvement?

OECD research provides evidence of a relationship between school autonomy and accountability and improved student outcomes, in instances where autonomy and accountability are ‘intelligently combined’ (OECD 2010, as cited by NSW Department of Education and Communities 2012, p. 26).

In its LSLD final evaluation report, CESE recommended that schools should be subject to appropriate scrutiny and accountability around the decisions they make to target school and student outcomes, while the department should take a greater role in providing support to schools to make these local decisions.

The NSW Government's review of Local Schools Local Decisions was undertaken to ensure the right balance between autonomy, accountability, and support for schools.

The development of the School Success Model included consideration of system improvement programs in New Zealand and Ontario, Canada. While the differences between each system are considerable, both Ontario and New Zealand serve cohorts with demographic similarities to New South Wales and have developed promising programs that target support resources to schools according to performance and need.

One feature the two systems share is the use of student outcome data to target support to underperforming schools and disadvantaged student cohorts. The Ontario Focused Intervention Partnership program, for example, provides support to schools that underperform in comparison to contextually comparable schools, where this support is tailored according to need. In New Zealand, research has indicated the effectiveness of data-targeted support in addressing the needs of disadvantaged cohorts, with particular success in improving educational outcomes for Māori and Pasifika student cohorts in a variety of outcome areas, including literacy, numeracy, and participation in tertiary education.

To effectively and equitably drive performance improvement, performance accountability frameworks must be appropriately calibrated. This requires the reform program to:

  1. determine a range of nuanced performance targets, avoiding the creation of perverse incentives
  2. select corresponding accountability measures, and evaluate performance against these measures with consideration of school and student context
  3. develop school support mechanisms that are fit-for-purpose, provided in a timely manner, and evaluated regularly.

3. How will the department evaluate the impact of the program?

The School Support Model includes overarching governance, ongoing evaluation and reporting on the efficacy of supports, and setting, monitoring and reporting of system-level performance targets. For example, evaluation practices are embedded within the process of identifying, developing and deploying support for schools that receive guided or strategic support in priority learning areas. As part of this support process, corporate teams work alongside principals and school leaders as well as Directors, Educational Leadership, to gather feedback before implementation of support and to review progress to ensure intended outcomes are achieved.

Additionally, the Department’s Centre for Education Statistic and Evaluation (CESE) is leading an independent program-wide evaluation of the School Success Model. The evaluation will seek to understand if SSM program activities are being implemented as intended and to monitor the extent to which program activities are achieving intended goals and making progress towards student outcome targets.

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